Pathology dictionary

Metaplasia

What does metaplasia mean?

The body is made up of many different types of specialized cells. Metaplasia describes a process where a group of cells change from one type of specialized cell into a different type of specialized cell.

Types of metaplasia

Metaplasia can occur any where in the body. The type of metaplasia is given a name that describes the type of specialized cell that remains after the change has occurred. The two most common types of metaplasia are intestinal metaplasia and squamous metaplasia.

  • Intestinal metaplasiaIntestinal metaplasia is usually seen in the stomach and in the esophagus. In the esophagus, this change is given the name Barretts esophagus. In both the stomach and the esophagus the normal cells change to look and behave like cells from the small intestine (small bowel).
  • Squamous metaplasia – Squamous metaplasia can be seen in many different parts of the body including the bladder, endometrium, and prostate. In squamous metaplasia, the normal cells turn into specialized cells called squamous cells.
Is metaplasia a type of cancer?

Metaplasia is not a type of cancer but some types of metaplasia can increase the risk for developing cancer over time. For example, Barretts esophagus is associated with an increased risk for developing a type of esophagus cancer called adenocarcinoma.

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